Heavylift / Breakbulk
For every heavy need
The Volga-Dnepr Group’s cargo supermarket caters to the needs of differing customers. It includes AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC), for scheduled options, Atran, an express specialist, and Volga-Dnepr Airlines, for charter operations for very heavy and / or out-of-gauge consignments. Dennis Gliznoutsa, Volga-Dnepr Airlines’ VP for development, described what the firm has done for its clients recently.
How did last year go for the Volga-Dnepr Group, Mr Gliznoutsa?
We haven’t reported our figures for 2013 yet, but our estimates are that the group made a profit – even though it’s probably smaller than the one recorded in the year before.
This comes as no surprise, given the global market conditions. Our result was supported by much-improved performances from AirBridgeCargo Airlines in the third and fourth quarters, as well as by the excellent performance of our IL-76TD-90VD and An-124 operations.
Volga-Dnepr was involved in the construction of an entire new airport in Papua New Guinea. What were the biggest challenges in this project from the operational point of view?
We were only involved at the design stage for the airport, to ensure that it was able to accept our An-124 aircraft.
But it was a fascinating and challenging project for Volga-Dnepr, nevertheless, which enabled us to display all of our transportation and logistics skills. All in all we operated a total of 88 An-124 flights in 103 days, carrying more than 6,000 t of cargo.
What was the most unusual consignment that you transported last year?
I might say that every piece of cargo we carry is unusual, because that’s our market and our field of specialisation. The unusual elements tend to be related to the environment, the speed of the operation, or the speed of loading and offloading.
Allow me to turn again to the project in Papua New Guinea. We devised a special system for loading and unloading goods, which meant that no crane was required to move outsize pieces of cargo weighing 20–30 t, enabling us to achieve turnaround times of 3–4 hours for the aircraft. This was extremely important to the operating schedule we were working to.
Returning to colder climes once again now... How did the fact that the Winter Olympic Games, one of this year’s two largest sports events, were held in your home country affect Volga-Dnepr’s business?
We were first involved in the Sochi games in 2007, when the city was bidding to host the event. We carried a 63 t ice rink to Guatemala, for the candidate’s final presentation to the International Olympic Committee, which met in Guatemala City to decide on the host. Since then we’ve carried heavy infrastructure equipment as well as broadcasting and sports equipment to Sochi.
Is your involvement in the football World Cup in more distant Brazil comparable?
Not at this stage. We do have requests for flights to Brazil, but they are not directly linked to the World Cup. For Sochi, for instance, we moved power-generation equipment for local electro stations, tunnel-digging machines for the construction of roads, and other equipment.
What, in your opinion, are the short to medium-term prospects for airfreight in general?
Ad-hoc charter operations will perhaps return to pre-Afghanistani operational levels. But we do expect the growth trend to remain stable, with minimal growth of between 3 and 5%.
How about for the heavylift segment in particular?
In some fields, equipment is becoming lighter and more reliable. Overall, heavy and outsize cargo has always accounted for around 6–14% of the cargo we move. However, there are still a good number of projects all around the world that require enormous pieces of machinery. These types of customers rely on our expertise – although we also compete with sea freight and land deliveries in this context, obviously.
How do you plan to get ahead in the heavylift segment? What is the difference between the Volga-Dnepr Group and its competitors?
We already have a very strong share of the heavylift and outsized air cargo market – but Volga-Dnepr is not only about heavylift cargo. We focus on providing a combination of services and products, including scheduled services through AirBridgeCargo, ad hoc and project charters with Volga-Dnepr’s An-124, IL-76 and An-12 freighters, and express operations with Atran.
In addition, we also provide technical services through Volga-Dnepr Technics, as well as end-to-end logistics services, in which we project manage an entire delivery. Combining all of this expertise and capability into what we call our cargo supermarket is what makes the difference for us.
Are there any new locations or equipment in the offing?
Some of the new developments we’re pursuing include expanding our charter division in Hong Kong, as well as the further development of our logistics services.
Volga-Dnepr is widely seen as an air cargo service provider from the East. Your charter activities are based on Russian (Ilyushin) as well as Ukrainian (Antonov) aeroplanes. AirBridgeCargo Airlines deploys only Boeing aircraft. Are units produced by other aircraft manufacturers an option? You know such aircraft rather well enough, don’t you, from your activities carried out by your company Volga-Dnepr Technics, after all...
The Antonov aeroplanes are from the former Soviet Union, so you can’t really refer to the aeroplanes as either a Russian or a Ukrainian aircraft. It’s a multinational project, for sure.
The aircraft was designed in Kiev and built in Ulyanovsk, with components from all over the former Soviet Union. We concentrate exclusively on cargo aeroplanes. The supply and variety of cargo planes is quite limited, however. We also consider the crew. For effective operations, it’s best to keep unity in the fleet.
Mr Gliznoutsa, thank you very much for this interview.